Friday, September 28, 2012
Water Cooler: Catching Up with Life after Lehigh Football
For Lehigh athletes, of course, that is true. But that doesn't mean that, often, the pursuit of sports opens the door for unique opportunities after graduation.
This offseason, I caught up with two former Lehigh football players, QB J.B. Clark and LB Colin Newton, whose pursuit of athletics has given them unique experiences internationally.
When we last left J.B. Clark, he was transferring to Truman State in Missouri after QB Chris Lum edged him out for the starting nod. But that didn't dampen his dreams about playing professionally.
Though he guided the Griffons to a 4-7 record, his lifetime totals of over 6,000 yards passing and 50 touchdown passes generated some interest with the NFL's Buffalo Bills after graduation.
But sometime during the summer, a contact got a hold of J.B., looking to play in the All-American Bowl in Mexico City, Mexico.
"The team is made up of free agent players with NFL talent spread out across all divisions," he told me. "After I returned home from the Bills' facility this summer, a contact that I made over the years heard I was a free agent, so he reached out to me and extended the invite. I didn't fully commit until 2 weeks prior to the game, as the Bills were trying to bring me in to camp."
The All-American Bowl, aside from being a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mexico, has also been a pathway for small-school players to make the NFL, CFL, and Arena Leagues.
"It was an amazing experience to play on such an international stage," he said. "I took 75% of the snaps from under center."
While the American Eagles fell 33-14 to the Mexican National All-Stars (Pumas), J.B. was a star south of the border, being issued the MVP and appearing all over their website, signing autographs and representing the USA with class.
"It was an honor to play for the U.S.," he said. "No greater feeling in sports than to represent your country."
It seems to have been a mutually beneficial relationship, because he's already been invited to return for next year's exhibition.
"If nothing transpires with any NFL or CFL team I was invited back to play at there next exhibition," said J.B. "If I had to make the call today, I think it's time to hang up the cleats. I've started my own business down here in south Florida (http://www.GetLiive.com) and things are looking bright. But that goes without saying, if the NFL came knocking, it would be hard not to lace em up again."
LB Colin Newton wasn't expecting to be playing professionally either - until he happened across a website called http://www.europlayers.com, which allows people to post player profiles to play overseas.
He didn't expect anything to come of it - and was surprised when he got a couple of offers.
"They were in different countries like Norway and Italy," he told me, "but I decided to sign with a team in Germany because the German Football League is the top competition in Europe. I signed a few weeks before the Pro Day."
The season wasn't easy - a grind of eight games, and three preseason games - but Colin doesn't have any regrets, as he tasted some success on the field, and even had the opportunity to coach on the youth team as well.
"At one point we were 6-0 and ranked 8th in all of Europe," he said. "! It is very fulfilling to have younger players so eager to learn and be coached by you. The take everything I say to heart because I am American and they want to know everything I know about the game of football."
But playing overseas for Colin was less about the dream of playing in the NFL and more about the other opportunities it offered him.
"At first I was not sure if playing ball in Europe was the best idea because I would be passing up job opportunities and 'falling behind' in the real world," he said. "Now after doing it I know it was the right decision. I got paid to play the game I love so much I would play for free, I have a lot of free time (recently picked up the guitar) and travel. This journey has allowed me to dive into so many different cultures in so many different places and truly experience life."
Football allowed Colin to see Europe in a way that not many Americans have.
"Between staying for the weekend after away games, bye weeks and or 'mid season break', I have been able to go all over Germany: Hamburg, Berlin, Cologne, Dresden, Leipzig," he said. "Traveled to Prague, Czech Republic and London. Went on a 20 day voyage with 1 back pack to Basel and Zurich Switzerland; Barcelona and the island of Ibiza in Spain; Lived with a host family in order to really dive into the culture in Copenhagen, Denmark. I plan on getting to Scotland, Ireland, and Paris before I come home."
Like J.B., Colin has no regrets about his decision to abuse his body one more year.
"I love that I made the decision to play ball overseas," he said, "and after seeing some of the most amazing places in the world I have realized that life is still less about where you are and more about who you're with."